What If the Very Material You’re Using Is the Inspiration for What You’re About to Create?

I find a rusty piece of metal that resembles an angel. It seems to tell me exactly what it wants to become. The rusty metal, the resemblance to a winged figure, and the mood I’m in sets off the sirens and the Muse attacks with an idea so compelling, I get excited.

Whatever this sequence of events is that ends with a bubbling up of giddy ecstasy is of vital importance to us all as creators. It is a topic vitally worthy of exploration. I, as a found-object artist, find that connection with inspiration indispensable.

This is what I want to share with people, this exquisite connection with creativity itself and the inevitable byproduct of joyous inspiration. But, alas, this is not something that can be taught, learned, nor shared.

Words fall short.

“We must have inspiration or we will not create at all. I can’t see it working any other way.”

But nonetheless, I continue to learn more and more about the nature of inspiration. And therefore I keep trying to share what I can. So far I’ve identified three ways to coax the Muse into working with us:

  1. Be a mad scientist; experiment with materials and techniques often.
  2. Be an explorer; look at your environment and other examples of creativity with a sense of adventure and curiosity.
  3. Be a hunter; don’t wait for inspiration to show up. Hunt it down.

Occasionally there will be an instance where inspiration comes directly from your found object. Sometimes the object actually instructs you on what it wishes to become. In his book, The Way of the Human Being, Calvin Luther Martin says that a man is walking along the beach and finds a piece of drift wood which tells him it wants to be carved into a walrus.

Michelangelo says he saw an angel in the stone and carved away everything that was not an angel.

Objects may not have inherent intelligence, but they do have the power of influence. If you are the artist chosen to collaborate with an object to help it become what it wants to be, it is a privilege as well as a challenge.

We must have inspiration or we will not create at all. I can’t see it working any other way. I suspect everyone treats the subject of inspiration differently however. Some may ignore its inner workings and just wait to be struck by an idea, with no real regard as to how the idea came about.

I wholly believe in the magic of creativity and I’m willing to swim in the reverie of inspiration, eyes open and ready to catch all its mystery and delight. I’m anxious to discover as many ways as possible to become inspired, inspire others, and to learn how and why inspiration hits when it does.

The spell of an object may eventually influence you and I’m hoping that if and when you spot an object that inspires you to help it become something unique, you will experience the same wild, ecstatic sense of discovery. With an adventurous spirit and a little courage, we can rise to the challenge and embrace the privilege again and again.

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Ideas Are Fishes


Rule Number One:

The economy is not driven by natural resources. Not by gold nor oil nor wind nor soy nor corn nor silicon.

The economy is driven by ideas. Period.

You, my friend, have hundreds of ideas swimming thru your mind every day!

Rule Number Two:

If you don’t capture them somehow, they will swim away.

I’m a Creative and I have come to learn the value of recording an idea before I lose it. Because memory is somewhat limited, I have seen many splendid ideas swim straight out of my thoughts, never to return.

The solution is easy. Just jot it down! Draw a picture if you need to. Say something into your smart phone. It’s a map to success for you and you alone. There is great value in your ideas, I promise. They are the very source of our economy after all.

NOTE: You’ve seen my three deer lamp, now get ready for the fish lamp. This is gonna be FUN!

I Wish!

I want to live in a world where ideas come to life.

I want to see a doodle go from ink scratches on a piece of notebook paper to a real-life lamp. Yes I said a real-life lamp. Why a lamp? Because a lamp represents illumination. The enlightened soul can use all the real-life help it can get. When you create, you take something out of the world of spirit (idea) and manifest it here on earth (reality). Enlightenment is one of the highest principles of the spirit realm. We have to shed light on things in order to see them clearly and understand our environment. So lamps are the perfect utilitarian work of art.

 

Since life is no more than a work of art itself, I figure I’ll make it happen. I look thru my scraps of paper with doodles on them and I find the three deer doodle. Scribed long ago on a yellow legal pad, something about the simplicity of the three deer appeal to me.

There’s poetry in the fact that very few simple lines drawn on colored paper can depict nature’s complexity in such a convincing way.

My lovely wife Catherine has been telling me for months she doesn’t like the random boards stacked against our fence. So I opt to use random boards as the medium for my three deer lamp.

I find a beautiful, once-painted, now faded board and cut out the basic shapes I see in my doodle. For the lines that represent the necks and legs, I’ll use patinated copper house wire. For the antlers I’ll use Dogwood branches. For the ears a scrap of leather will do. Finally, for the trees, I’ll use watercolor paper.

To translate a doodle to a work of art (especially a lamp made of old boards) is an act of pure intuition. There are no pre-made instructions. I make a tiny sketch (almost as tiny as the original doodle) so I have a map to go by, but I don’t take any measurements.

I just approximate the comparative sizes of the deer’s bodies and heads and legs and necks to keep everything somewhat within the laws of physics.

The battles one fights on one’s journey to glory are what make the journey worthwhile and making a doodle lamp is not without its challenges. The most disastrous onslaught is not having a drill bit that is ever-so-slightly larger than the house wire. They are so close in size that I have to pull out a hammer and pound the backs of the deer to get the legs to fit down into the holes in the hillside where they must reside. A less exuberant soul will let the resulting bent wires discourage his or her efforts, but this is one of those projects that falls into the third category of art.

There are three definite categories of art:
  1. Graphic/Commercial,
  2. Fine Art,
  3. and that which comes from your soul.

All three require a different set of disciplines and all three have their place in the world. But the stuff from your soul does not die an early death. The stuff from your soul gets birthed into this world come hell or high water! A broken antler means another trip to the Dogwood tree. Leather too thin it tears when you poke it in the deer-head holes means a thicker, more beefy leather scrap must be obtained. Finding out you purchased the wrong lamp-wire online means requesting a return authorization. Having no idea how to attach the white paper forest in an upright fashion behind the deer means ratcheting up your intelligence and finding a way that will work with the goods you have on hand.

These tiny but substantial skirmishes are always behind the scenes for the casual observers who take in your art once it is created. But victory over these perilous encounters are your ticket into artist’s heaven, where you and the muse get to kick back a cold one and recount the adventure you had bringing your idea across the spirit bridge and into reality.

This is your chance, people, to join the ranks of the artists in artist’s heaven. If I can take a doodle off of a piece of paper and turn it into a lamp, imagine what you can do!

We truly do live in a world where ideas come to life!

(Click on the photos if you’d like to see slightly larger versions… unless you’re on a mobile device, in which case just stretch and pinch to your heart’s content.)




Tell me about your experiences with bringing ideas to life…

How do I Become a Prolific Artist?

The MC2 Formula


Example of a quick stick-figure map/plan for use later when I feel like producing

 

Here’s how:

  1. Pay attention to only two or three of the vast amount of ideas that occur to you
  2. Jot them down right away and if you have time draw a quick map or plan that you can refer back to if you lose the idea in your memory
  3. Work on more than one project at once so that if progress pauses on one project you can keep going on another

A prolific artist is someone who creates a large number of works in a given amount of time. We all receive inspiration to create many things, but we don’t always act on that inspiration. And sometimes those creative ideas can fade into obscurity.

If I could show you the catalog in my mind of artistic creations I perceive to be nearly ready to become materialized, I’m pretty sure you would ask me what in the world I’m waiting on. And I would agree with you wholeheartedly.

I want to Materialize my Creations 2 start enjoying them and sharing them with others!

But the list is somewhat virtual. It’s a moving target, and just a tad volatile. When the idea occurs to me, it comes full on and ready to enter manifestation, but if I catalog it, (like I most often do) it begins to evaporate just a little amongst the many other important things to remember. Over time it can actually fade completely away as if the idea had never even struck me.

So what I really have at any given moment is a partial list (at best) of some potentially cool ideas that I may be able to coax into being if I work diligently toward their realization when the mood to produce hits me. This is an extremely important factor. I only act on inspiration when I’m in the mood to produce. And those productive moods don’t always coincide with the moments I receive inspiration.

Consequently I’ve come to the conclusion that the complete catalog will never make it out here into the real world. I have to joyfully accept this reality because not only will my memory occasionally fail to retain a creation idea long enough to coincide with the productive mood, but those ideas are infinite. They never stop. They rush in several times a day and there are not enough hours in my lifetime to really get them all tended to.

But I still want to Materialize my Creations 2 start enjoying them and sharing them with others!

I have paid attention to how I operate when I’m in the productive mood. I like to have a minimum of two and sometimes three creations to work with at once. I don’t mean to create simultaneously, but when you do the kind of found object-assemblage-sculpture work I often find myself doing, you’ll notice there are times when glue has to dry; Metal has to become patinated; One layer of paint must dry before adding another, etc., etc. That can mean waiting up to 24 hours before you continue to monkey with your creation. With two or more projects to tend to, you have the luxury of being able to switch gears and keep the creative momentum going. I love when that becomes a seamless process in my flow of productivity.

My lesson has been that I realize I only need two or three ideas from that infinite list and I can jot them down the minute they occur to me. And if I do, they actually stand a chance of being materialized, coming into fruition and capable of being shared. Plus I get the supreme satisfaction of keeping my creative juices flowing when one project requires some incubation by simply turning my focus onto another creation.

Next time you find yourself hoping to get all of your creative ideas out into the real world, you can take solace in the fact that it really only takes a few of those ideas to really succeed at this. Use the MC2 formula:

  • Try to jot the ideas down the minute they come to you.
  • If you have time, draw a quick stick figure map/plan like the one pictured above so you’ll have instructions when the mood to produce hits.
  • Once the mood to produce kicks in, work on more than one project at once.

We can become prolific artists two or three projects at a time. It really works!

The Brink

I remember the three and a half mile hikes we used to take down into Feather Falls… all the way down hill. When you came to the overlook, a large wooden deck placing you just over the edge of the canyon so you could witness the Feather River plunge to the rock floor 640 feet below, there was a secret.  If you did not turn left to walk out onto the overlook, there was a secret trail to the right. No one knew it was there because it began three feet higher up a hill than the ground of the standard trail, obscured by bushes and long dry weeds.

When you clamored up that first impossible step, the trail went on and as you walked you’d see signs—warning signs that read: Caution, Brink of Falls! Stay behind the Fence! And sure enough there was an eight foot tall chain-link fence erected long enough ago that the rust had set in and it was no longer (if ever) a pretty sight. But the brave and the anarchist hikers who came before us saw fit to take bolt cutters to many of the fence’s weak points and cut wide gates to freedom. So those of us with whatever gusto it takes, could go right up to the brink of the falls. From there, the roar was deafening. But I found an even better secret.

If one were to hike up the river, just around the next bend, one would come across a fallen tree. A giant of a fir tree that had plummeted straight across the river who knows how many centuries ago. But it still had its bark, petrified somewhat by the weather and it was a wide and welcoming bridge to the other side of the river.

Once you crossed this mammoth tree-bridge, you were free to explore a land that many have never set foot upon.

Turning left and heading back toward the brink of the falls, there was an unusual rock formation. It was the peak of the hill and from the ground it rose up about ten feet from the trail. Half way up, a solid rock slice of bread (or so it appeared) was slightly removed from the mother rock, like a piece of toast sticking out of a sideways toaster. Behind this slice of stone where it used to be connected to the mother rock, was a one foot by two foot hole from one side of the pyre to the other. This produced a shelf where the rock had slid out a little bit over the canyon. It was possible to step up onto this rock, take seat and dangle your feet over the edge. It was the best seat in the house.

Looking to your left you’d witness 4,000 cubic feet of water per second from the Feather River fly out over the brink of the falls and down to the canyon floor. At about the eleven o’clock position you could see the observation deck and all the tiny tourists marveling at the site just to your left. And straight out westward you’d see the canyon stretch for miles, the river winding its way thru the gorge which sliced through the Sierra Nevada mountains eons ago.

Here’s what I’ve learned from those trips to the brink of the falls; this feeling of nearing the brink, which contains a large measure of anticipation, readiness, and pure adventure is a valuable feeling. It is a feeling you can bring to bear on any one of life’s many situations. It is a state of being. The first time I ventured up onto that secret trail, I had no idea what lie before me. I anticipated something big and very possibly dangerous. The closer I got to the brink of the falls the more excited I got to see what was there, to take in the sights and the smells and the sounds of all Nature’s fury as an entire river came rushing off a precipice and fell through mid-air only to crash on the rocks below and continue its journey toward the sea.

Sometimes we can get in touch with that feeling of excitement and adventure without the hike to the falls. We can feel that way about a project we are about to embark upon.

“The state of mind revered most by the Muse is a mind filled to the brim with notions of adventure.”

Just imagine the brink. Imagine nearing the brink and see what kinds of inspiration find you.

We’re On a Mission From God

One of the best lines in all the movies I’ve ever seen was delivered by Dan Aykroyd in The Blues Brothers.

“We’re on a mission from God.”

Such a powerful statement and most likely true in our lives much more often than we suspect.

But growing up Christian there were very mixed signals about uttering such words. To think of oneself as in league with God in any way was considered blasphemous. Some of us were led to believe we are far too profane to ever have a relationship with God. And I see solid evidence of the same admonition happening today. It’s like walking on eggshells when you can’t express your feelings about the relationship you have with God outside of an accepted set of phrases.

When I first read Ralph Waldo Emerson’s words: “The foregoing generations beheld God and nature face to face; we, through their eyes. Why should not we also enjoy an original relation to the universe? Why should not we have a poetry and philosophy of insight and not of tradition, and a religion by revelation to us, and not the history of theirs?” I began to wonder if he didn’t have a very good point.

What I’m trying to say is that we, as creators, often feel compelled to create. Although I cannot claim to know, there may be a strong chance that those compulsions come directly from God. So when we’re making what we’re making, we may well be on a mission from God.

I want you to walk away convinced that it is more than okay to be on a mission from God. I want you to be able to feel it when inspiration comes barreling thru your heart and you feel that ultra-conviction to follow that inspiration and create what has been delivered to you to create. And then I want you to be able to proclaim that mission to anyone who will listen, because I believe that is exactly what’s happening. You’re on a mission from God!

Say it often. Feel it. Believe it. Even if only to yourself… we really are on a mission from God.

…to boldly act on inspiration: The Challenge of Trusting Our Own Intuition

boldlyact

I have forever been fascinated by unlimited potentiality being wrangled into a single thing by us humans.
I have a list of six values that I carry with me everywhere I go. One of them is:

“Creativity: to be creative, innovative, and to boldly act on inspiration.”

It’s easy for me to be creative. It comes naturally to me. And let’s face it, being innovative is in the same wheel-house as being creative.

But once I am inspired to create, I must brave up before I can actually create something. I have to “boldly act” on the inspiration I receive. If I create something, chances are it will find its way into the public eye. And what if people think my creation sucks and they criticize it? Or what if I’ve overestimated my skills and I really can’t create the piece I’ve imagined? For some of us there is always at least a slight level of trepidation present in the process of creating. One of two things can go wrong; either someone will judge my work as unworthy or I will fail in my attempt to create it.

I was talking with a friend the other day about the place where creativity comes from. A place where the spiritual part of ourselves meets our physical apparatus. Where idea meets execution. I have forever been fascinated by unlimited potentiality being wrangled into a single thing by us humans.

The word “inspire” comes from the Latin word, “inspirare” which means to breathe fire into; to inflame or excite. The “spir” portion of the word inspire means the same as the “spir” portion of the word spirit. So we must go to none other than the very spark of life to find inspiration.

While pondering these concepts, I began to see a parallel between inspiration and intuition. They both come from the same invisible realm… and I don’t always trust what I cannot see. I think this is why so many times we catch ourselves saying, “I had a feeling I should have {fill the blank}.” We find out we should have trusted our intuition after the fact. Once the situation plays itself out, we see our intuition was right on the money. But before the situation plays itself out, we’re not so sure. It seems like guess-work.

It is the same with our creations. After we have boldly acted on inspiration and see the fruits of our labor, we know we did the right thing. But before we see the result of our creative endeavor, we’re not so sure.

If this is the crux of the problem with trusting ourselves, and indeed I believe it is, what are we to do? How can we trust our intuition and boldly act on inspiration more often?

There was a Scottish mountain climber who summed it up nicely for me when he spoke about commitment. William Hutchison Murray (18 March 1913 – 19 March 1996) had this to say in his book: The Scottish Himalayan Expedition (1951):

“But when I said that nothing had been done I erred in one important matter. We had definitely committed ourselves and were halfway out of our ruts. We had put down our passage money—booked a sailing to Bombay.

This may sound too simple, but is great in consequence. Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings, and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way.

I learned a deep respect for one of Goethe’s couplets:
Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it.
Boldness has genius, power and magic in it!”

So I gather from all this pondering that a creative person needs only trust their intuition and commit to the act of creation regardless of any fear.  This is actually the definition of courage.

cour·age
/ˈkərij/
noun
The ability to do something that frightens one.

So a little boldness is required. And a commitment to our very Spirits.

We can do this. We can turn our backs on the nagging self-doubts about our abilities to perform, or the judgement of our works by others and boldly act on any inspiration that hits us. I say we do it! What say ye?